There is a path near the school by a large park where I used to walk with my friend. At a certain point, and for no apparent reason, the path divides, splitting off on two parallel pathways separated by about 8 feet of grass and an occasional tree. It seems there would never be a reason to use the second path.
One of my dearest, most favorite friends in the world is expecting. More than expectation, as that would imply time to wait… there is immanence.
I am to help her give birth again, as was my privilege 3 years ago this very week. But this time is different. Back then I had really been there for her….. This time I have not been. I regret it, all the while acknowledging I could not have done it any other way.
My due date for the baby I lost last summer was to be this month, the 26th or so, a week after this dear friend. We had been excited to walk together, talk together, plan and grow and wait together. But then the worst happened when it had seemed all was going so well, and soon she was walking a path apart from my own.
At first I told myself that, like the three times before, I would be strong. After all, I had actually spent the due date of the first baby we lost in the hospital helping a mama to bring her baby into the world. I had felt safe to plan that birth around my grief, knowing that mama would never go two weeks over due. Ah, subtle irony. Even at that, when she went into labor two days before my unrealized due date, I had still felt safe. 36 hours later I faded back to a cold wall and pinched my stinging eyes as I watched a new mama hold her precious baby.
But somehow this time has been different. No matter how hard I tried to be brave, I couldn’t abide to be in the presence of a new baby-- at church a woman had thrust her baby into my arms so that she could go to the restroom, and I began to shake and feel sick. I felt ashamed, but it was a reaction I could not control, even though I obviously love babies. I ached, physically ached, my whole insides all twisted up, when I was in the vicinity of a pregnant woman. I talked to myself -- lectured, judged, scolded, soothed, reminded, consoled. I prayed and threw myself into the situations that most made me struggle, to no avail. The hurt remained, fading only faintly as months passed.
During the months while my dear friend blossomed and grew round, Guy and I began the frustration of testing to see why my body lost babies. We learned about all the things that weren’t wrong, but never learned about anything that was. I felt broken and confused. Why had we felt that God wanted us to have another baby?
It had all gotten too heavy, and I couldn’t carry the burden of it and carry anything else as well. My arms were full. I mean, empty.
So I didn’t take care of my friend. I all but abandoned her. She began to show, glow, grow… all from afar. I could see her over there, on that other path, through the trees, but I couldn’t be with her. And I stopped walking with her through the park.
After a few months I had begun to move toward her again, to step closer without so much pain, to be in her presence and be able to see her, lovely her--and not just her belly-- when the little stick I peed on said, “Holy crap, here you go again.”
I believed that I could be at her birth “not-pregnant”-- I had said that I would-- but what about pregnant? Would my body take it? No, that wasn’t my real worry. (Dig deeper, and find it. There it is…) My true fear; what if I lose this one too, so close to her birth. I don’t know if I can go to a birth with a heart so raw.
There was nothing I could do. No choice to make. I just had to ride it out. I am not proud of myself. I waited for my circumstances to dictate my actions, something I have avoided whenever possible in my life. But I’m too tired to fight anymore, and what little strength there is left is held in reserve. Regret is exhausting, and I can’t spare the expense.
My friend had her baby two days ago, almost a week early and just days after I wrote this. She knew I would not be able to come because of the recent complications I have been having, and had been so understanding. She would miss me, she had said. We wondered aloud if I might not still be able to make it if I began feeling well and she went over due like last time. But she didn’t.
Yesterday she told me that when the hardest part of labor came, she felt like calling out, “I want my Laine!” I was touched and crushed all at once.
My heart aches for what I cannot change. I want to believe that if I were supposed to have been there, God would have made a way, but I still feel like I abandoned her all over again.
I need to work on forgiving myself , and I am okay with that. Like so many other things that this journey is teaching me, I am learning that I don't have to feel badly about feeling badly.